Planning: Planning Methods


I’ve talked about planning before and for many people you may already have your own personal methods. And that’s the beauty of it, you’ll learn as you go what works for you. Here are just a couple of starting ideas:

The traditional approach

Divide your book up into sections, (usually by chapters or by sections of the three Act Structure) and brainstorm what happens in each section, which characters are involved and how it leads to and from the sections either side of this.

Once you have finished all your brainstorming for each section, collect all your ideas and write a concise summary (usually two to three sentences) of what happens in each section.

This allows for flexibility without following the strict rules of other planning methods.

This is great to allow your story to naturally grow, however I would advise it for only the most organized as it can get incredibly messy.


The Reverse Outline

Planning backwards means you can start with the major climax at the end of your book, which is probably the part of your story you know the best. Then work out how to get to the climax, then how to get to that and so on and so on.


Visual Storyboards

If you are gifted with the ability to draw, (…lucky…) then storyboard your story, a picture speaks a million words and is probably quicker to do than write them.


Three-act structure

For those of you out there more concerned with the structure of your story rather than any specifics of plot then you should use the three-act structure to plan out your novel. It can be argued that every (good) story follows the three-act structure and thus planning yours to it should help give you some peace of mind.


Each of these acts contains certain specific features:

Act 1: [The first quarter] Contains the most elements, the opening scene that establishes the characters and the main conflict, the inciting events where the characters begin the journey of the book and the turning point which introduces the second Act.

Act 2: [50% in the middle of the book] at the centre of the second act the action should rise to its climatic midpoint and is usually where everything changes for the characters. Once again there must be a turning point into Act 3.

Act 3: [The last quarter] This is the one people know the best. The Third Act is where the final climax and resolution play out.


Tentpole Moments

What are the events or conflicts that without your story will collapse, (like a tent)? Write these down and then try to find what links all these events together throughout the story.


Write A Script

This may seem strange to plan your book in a different media form, but a script only requires description and dialogue meaning you can plan quickly and expand from there.


Dialogue Pass

Similar to planning in the form of a script: just let the characters talk. It’s a good way of exploring their voices and their stories and again this method allows you to write the bare bones of your story quickly.

Further Reading